We are a couple of weeks past the City Council’s urgency ordinance and the important renter protections it put into place in January. We now are hurtling toward a very significant City Council meeting on Tuesday, February 21 at 7PM. Now is the time to pay attention! Renters Alliance has been in a huddle the past week. And we created a website to get the word out. Now it is time to really organize. Where do we go from here?
Here’s a recap. Recall that these temporary changes to the rent stabilization law went into effect as of as of January 25th. They prevent capricious rent hikes and tenancy terminations:
- The 10% allowed annual rent increase for most tenants is now reduced to 3%;
- Relocation payments for no-cause terminations that had applied to only a very small number of tenants is now citywide – and range from $9k to nearly $20k (for seniors and families with children); and,
- A new ‘registry’ to track all rental units so that the city can finally enforce portions of our rent law that went unenforced until today.
These policies are a major step forward for renters. For more information please review the Urgency Ordinance [PDF] and its associated Urgency ordinance FAQ [PDF]; the FAQs for Chapter 5 [PDF] and Chapter 6 [PDF] tenants; and the Urgent notice [PDF] sent by the city about the changes.
The urgency ordinance changes prompted howls and even some heckling of City Council by landlords. However, they have gone on the offensive. Their industry association has marshaled mom-and-pop landlords to show a friendly face to policymakers; their lobbyists are working to roll back the protections; and landlords are meeting with city officials. How serious did they take the threat of substantial changes to the rent law? Very seriously. They’ve even stopped heckling those who volunteer their time on Council.
How seriously should renters take the threat of a rollback of long-awaited protections? Very seriously. We can lose these protections should the reform effort stretch along an elastic timeline – a timeline that only favors landlords and their lobbyists.
Next Thursday, February 16th the Human Relations Commission will convene at 9AM the second of two hearings (both 9AM!) to collect public comment about policies promulgated under the urgency ordinance. Read the Human Relations staff report [PDF] and contact the commission with your comments.
That is the first stop on a fast-moving train. Next it lays over in Council chambers for a few hours on Tuesday, February 21. We will then have a sense of whether City Council will finalize the reforms we have in place. Will Council take the big-picture approach to housing policy (as favored by Mayor Mirisch) or a lock-it-in-now approach (as perhaps favored by Councilmember Lili Bosse)? (Find the agenda here when it is posted.)
If Council takes no definitive action, then the rent stabilization reform train pulls out of the station again and we won’t know where it is headed. Yet it is still essential that you jump on board and participate in these meetings.
Important to note: city staff from the Community Services Department have not been helping our cause. In fact staff tried to short-circuit the rental registry (in November) and low-balled relocation fees (in January’s staff report to City Council ). Staff framed the move to reduce the 10% allowed annual increase cap as a new ‘limit’ on increases rather than call it what it is – a reduction in the allowed increase. And staff has helpfully circulated articles questioning the premise of rent control (these were evidently suggested for inclusion by Councilmember Julian Gold). Neighbors, the staff thumb on the scale has come down on the side of the landlords.
What can you do? Share the Alliance with anyone you know who rents in Beverly Hills. Write a letter to the editor of the Weekly or the editor of the Courier or the Beverly Press. Post a handbill. Just yesterday this notice was taped to my building’s lobby:
It is not too late to act. On the contrary, we may be in the early innings of a protracted battle to keep the protections we do have. Let’s light up those email inboxes! Want to be a part of the Alliance? Send a note with how you can help.